Iraq 2: Sanctions and Bombing 1990-2003
[Second essay of recent history of western intervention and war crimes in Iraq as background to the current chaos of IS etc.]
Sanctions and Bombing 1990-2003
Where are our human rights here in Iraq? We have no electricity, no clean water, no trains, no safe cars, an environment which is being destroyed, and you are bombing us every day. I tell you, we would rather have a real war than this slow death. This is genocide.
– Iraqi civilian Nasra al-Sa’adoun 1999 (cited in Nikki van der Gaag, ‘Iraq- The pride and the pain’)
I don’t want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide.
– from the 1998 statement of resignation of Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq
…we think the price is worth it.
– Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to UN under President Clinton, in 1996 on the relationship between the 500,000 children killed by UN sanctions and the political benefits to the US ruling elites (aka the ‘national interest’)
Under pressure from the US, Great Britain and France, the UN Security Council in 1990 imposed ‘the most savage economic sanctions ever imposed by the United Nations’ on Iraq to weaken Saddam Hussein and force him to pull out of Kuwait. The Security Council ‘ordered that food and medical supplies to Iraq be intercepted – in complete contravention of international law, including the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter itself.’ These sanctions remained after the 1991 Gulf War and under the Clinton-Gore administration. Ostensibly, the sanctions remained in place because the Saddam regime was not complying with UN resolutions regarding its disarmament. They were obviously also meant to control and weaken the regime. In fact, they actually consolidated Saddam’s dictatorial position within Iraq.
They were the only sanctions of the 20th century imposed as a complete embargo on almost ALL trade rather than only on particular goods or areas. Already bombed back into the pre-industrial age, the heavily import-dependent Iraqi people were now also denied the basic requirements of survival.
The sanctions regime stopped the import of spare parts for electricity, water and telephone infrastructure, medicines, pain killers, antiseptics, water purification additives. Polio, cholera, typhoid returned with a vengeance. Malnutrition and hunger spread. Cancer rates soared due to the DU weapons used, and the import of cancer drugs was prohibited under the ‘dual use’ (potential weapon use) rule. Under the ‘oil for food’ program agreed to in 1995, UN mine-detecting dogs in northern Iraq were allocated more food per head than Iraqi people, according to Benon Sevon, the Director of the Iraq Programme.
As a direct result, according to a 1999 UNICEF study, there was a rise in the mortality rate for children under five from 48 per 1,000 in 1990 to 122 per 1,000 in 1997, and a rise in the child malnourishment rate of 73% since 1991, with one in four children malnourished. The maternal mortality rate more than doubled from 50 per 100,000 live births in 1989 to 117 in 1997. At that time, UNICEF estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 children were dying each month as a direct result of sanctions, a fact that led the then UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday, to resign from his post in late 1998.
Halliday resigned with the comment: ‘I am resigning because the policy of economic sanctions is […] destroying an entire society. Five thousand children are dying every month […] I don’t want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide.’ He later noted how the UN sanctions both violated the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights and was actually a war, ‘through the United Nations’, targeting civilians, targeting children and thus ‘a monstrous situation, for the United Nations, for the Western world, for all of us who are part of some democratic system, who are in fact responsible for the policies of our governments and the implementation of sanctions on Iraq.’
His successor, Hans von Sponeck, also resigned with similar comments in 2000, as did Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, saying she could no longer tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people. Such collective action was unprecedented.
The total number of Iraqi victims of the sanctions regime up to 2003 has been estimated as being over 1 million people, with almost half of these being children under five.
As usual, double standards prevailed and Western corporate media tended to pass over these horrific facts with benign indifference. Both Labor and conservative Australian governments (and, of course, the local corporate media in their usual supportive role) proudly participated in this state terrorism: they helped implement the near-genocidal sanctions regime with the ongoing deployment of naval vessels.
The then US Ambassador to the UN and later Secretary of State under President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, quite accurately considered sanctions ‘amongst the most powerful and lethal weapons in our armory’. In an interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes on 12 May 1996, she, in response to Stahl’s question about whether the 500,000 Iraqi child victims of sanctions (a figure that, he pointed out, surpassed Hiroshima’s tally) were worth ‘the price’, notoriously answered as follows: ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.’ Seldom has the equivalence of imperial realpolitik and mass murder been stated with such clarity. CBS has since refused to allow the videotape of the interview with Albright to be shown again.
In Clinton’s ‘Operation Desert Fox’, from late 1998 onwards, the US and Britain flew almost daily illegal bombing sorties over so-called ‘no-fly zones’ in Iraq without any UN backing. The death toll after only one month was over 10,000.
Total Iraqi Civilian Deaths As A Result of US/UN Sanctions: over 1 million (over 500,000 children under five)
~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on July 22, 2015.
Posted in critical theory, essays, history, social theory
Tags: Albright 'the price is worth it', Clinton, Denis Halliday, genocide in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, human rights in Iraq, Iraq, Iraq sanctions, Madelaine Albright, sanctions against Iraq, war crimes in Iraq